5 Simple but Effective Remote Activities for Team Building
Earlier we explained how to effectively onboard new team employees remotely. Nonetheless, virtual collaboration retains many limitations compared to actually being together. Even when you factor in the use of video calling, screen sharing, and real-time synchronization, it’s still hard to read each other’s body language.
One way to improve remote collaboration is through remote team building activities. Now these are often awkward and cheesy, but that’s not really the point. It’s all about breaking routines so that everyone gets to see a different side of one another. This fosters different types of communication, which automatically gets everyone to know one another better.
Yet, in order to look forward to virtual team building activities, it of course helps to limit their cheesiness. Therefore, we selected a few non-awkward team-building activities that you can easily do from home.
This is a very simple, but telling game. Dedicate a time slot in your virtual meeting where everyone shows their desk. What’s on it, and why is it on there? What’s the logic or hierarchy behind the way that everyone has organized their desk?
You’ll be surprised at what your colleagues like to have within hand’s reach: curiosities, artworks, tokens, talismans, habit enforces – it could be literally anything. Conversely, you may not be surprised at all by the messy desk of your chaotic colleague, or by the neatly ordered desk of your nitpicking manager.
On another occasion, you can switch this game up by asking everyone what desk item they’d bring along to an uninhabited island. And, more importantly, why they’d bring that particular item above anything else.
Naturally, you can extend either of these games to the entire room that everyone works in, or for example to the kitchen that they cook in.
2. Show your team members what’s outside your house
This one is just as simple as the first one, but think about it: the nature of remote working is that your team member could literally be anywhere in the world.
This means that looking out of your colleagues window, regardless of it being through a camera, makes you and your team members virtual tourists for the moment. Undoubtedly, you’ll see many cityscapes, but perhaps one of your colleagues lives in a beautiful natural environment. Or, maybe they cultivated and crafted a really cool garden! Who knows?
This game gives everyone a better idea of the environment that your team members live in, and thus literally what part of their lives looks like. In effect, you’ll learn a lot about the type of people that you’re collaborating with, which will make it easier to communicate with them.
Also this game you can extend easily, for example by showing a tour around the house or garden.
#Pro-tip: make this activity more interesting by making it a “guess-where-I-live” game
Give your colleagues some clues or fun facts to help them guess what city, village, or neighborhood they’re looking at through your window. This way you can get an idea of their knowledge outside of the working sphere while they learn a little more about your environment: win-win!
3. Sandwich a lie
Yeah, we all know that truthful communication is essential. However, deliberately switching it up for a change creates interesting and fun scenarios.
For this game, write 1 lie about yourself, and 2 statements that are true. Then, read them out loud in whatever order you prefer, and have your colleagues guess which statements are true and which one is a lie. Give them a minute to ask questions about your statements – and thus test your lying skills – after which they have to make their final decision.
You can play this game many times of course, because there’s plenty of fun true and false statements about yourself that you can share with your colleagues. However, keep your game face on, because it won’t be long before certain colleagues will start picking up on your lying cues!
4. Wine & Dine together
Or coffee and cake, or lunch and tea – whatever floats your boat.
It doesn’t really matter, but everyone knows that conversations flow easier with some food and drinks adjoined. This isn’t surprising, because food and drinks don’t just give you a nice taste, but also hormonal rewards that make you feel good and the energy to tell a story or listen to your colleagues talk.
Simultaneously, this puts less pressure on the talking, because if you don’t know what to say, you can just focus on your meal for a minute. Also, you can easily break the ice by asking about your colleagues’ eating habits. What coffee or tea method do they prefer? Why did they choose the meal that they’re eating on the other side of your internet connection?
Want to spice the activity up a little? Have 1 colleague per time share a recipe of easily attainable ingredients, and cook together during a video call. The resulting meal is an instant reward for everyone, and learning some new recipes is a nice bonus too.
Have a look at this Trello Board if you want some structure for this activity.
5. Single minute story telling
When the time pressure is on, excitement is guaranteed! We’re curious creatures by nature, and therefore naturally curious about our colleagues too. However, listening to a long story told virtually is not something most of us tend to describe as fun. So, give everyone 60 seconds (make sure someone keeps track of the time!) to tell a story about themselves that no one knows yet. Alternatively, everyone can summarize their resume/career, their graduation research, or whatever else is relevant in your team in one minute. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn in 60 seconds, and the enthusiasm that this short story telling game brings about.
Conversely, let everyone tell a 60-second story that describes one of the team members, and have the other people guess who it is. Whatever you do, give everyone a few minutes to prepare; otherwise, you risk having to listen to a minute of jibber jabber from everyone.
Empathy improves collaboration
As you see, there are many easy ways to stimulate excitement, unusual conversations, and funny scenarios. Every team-building activity will reveal another piece of the puzzle that is your colleagues, which naturally fosters more empathy for one another. Whether it’s to integrate a new employee, or to improve the connections within a long-standing organization, these activities are essential to keep everyone’s spirits up and ensure a happy, motivated, and collaborative team.